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The Siamese is one of the first distinctly recognized breeds of Oriental cat. The origins of the breed are unknown, but it is believed to be from Thailand. In Thailand, where they are one of several native breeds, they are called Wichian Mat (??????????, a name meaning "moon diamond" ). In the 20th century the Siamese cat became one of the most popular breeds in Europe and North America.

 

Appearance

Traditional Siamese Cat

The Thai or traditional Siamese shares some features with the Modern Siamese (e.g., the colour pattern and the short single coat, although not so short and "painted on" as the modern) but differs from it in head and body type. It has a "foreign" type (rather elongated, high on the legs, lithe but substantial, with medium boning) not an "oriental" type as in the modern Siamese and Oriental breeds) and it has a modified wedge head, with rounded cheeks from which project a wedge shaped muzzle (or "marten face" as it was called in 19th century descriptions). The ears are moderately large but not huge, and are placed higher than those of the modern Siamese ears are. The eyes are medium to slightly large, a full almond shape but not extremely "oriental."

Modern Seal Lynx Point Siamese

The breed standard of the Modern Siamese indicates an elegant, slim, stylish, flexible, and well- muscled body. Its head is triangular shaped, with a thin snout. The eyes are almond-shaped and oblique, with large wide based ears positioned more towards the side of the head. This positioning should form a perfect triangle from the tip of the nose to each tip of the ear. It has a long elegant neck, body, and wispy slender tail. The fur is short, glossy, fine, soft, tight, and adhered to the body with no undercoat. The Siamese is characterized by its typical pointed color scheme.

The pointed pattern is a form of partial albinism, resulting from a mutation in tyrosinase, an enzyme involved in melanin production. The mutated enzyme is heat-sensitive; it fails to work at normal body temperatures, but becomes active in cooler areas of the skin. This results in dark colouration in the coolest parts of the cat's body, including the extremities and the face, which is cooled by the passage of air through the sinuses. All Siamese kittens, although pure cream or white at birth, develop visible points in the first few months of life in colder parts of their body. By the time a kitten is four weeks old, the points should be clearly distinguishable enough to recognise which colour they are. Siamese cats tend to darken with age, and generally, adult Siamese living in warm climates have lighter coats than those in cool climates. Originally the vast majority of Siamese had seal(extremely dark brown, almost black) points, but occasionally Siamese were born with blue (a cool grey) points, genetically a dilution of seal point; chocolate (lighter brown) points, a genetic variation of seal point; or lilac (pale warm gray) points, genetically a diluted chocolate. These colours were at first considered "inferior" seal points, and were not qualified for showing or breeding. All of these shades were eventually accepted by the breed associations, and became more common through breeding programmes specifically aimed at producing these colours. Later, outcrosses with other breeds developed Siamese-mix cats with points in other cat colours and patterns including Red and Cream point, lynx (tabby) point, and tortoise-shell ("tortie") point.

In the United Kingdom, all pointed Siamese-style cats are considered part of the Siamese breed. In the United States, the major cat registry, the Cat Fanciers' Association, considers only the four original colourations as Siamese: seal point, blue point, chocolate point, and lilac point. Oriental cats with colourpoints in colours or patterns aside from these four are considered Colorpoint Shorthairs in the American cat fancy.
This Siamese cat demonstrates the once common cross-eyed trait that has largely been bred out.

Many Siamese cats from Thailand had a kink in their tails but over the years, this trait has been considered a flaw and breeders have largely eradicated it, although it persists among street cats in Thailand. Many early Siamese were cross-eyed to compensate for the abnormal uncrossed wiring of the optic chiasm, which is produced by the same albino allele that produces coloured points. Like the kinked tails, the crossed eyes have been seen as a fault and due to selective breeding the trait is far less common today.

 

 



Temperament

Modern Siamese kittens

Siamese are usually very affectionate and intelligent cats, renowned for their social nature. Many enjoy being with people and are sometimes described as "extroverts". Often they bond strongly to a single person. Some Siamese are extremely vocal, with a loud, low-pitched voice – known as "Meezer", from which they get one of their nicknames – that has been compared to the cries of a human baby, and persistent in demanding attention. These cats are typically active and playful, even as adults, and are often described as more dog-like in behavior than other cats.

They are sometimes less active at night than most cats, possibly because their blue eyes lack a tapetum lucidum, a structure which amplifies dim light in the eyes of other cats. The mutation in the tyrosinase also results in abnormal neurological connections between the eye and the brain. Unlike many other blue-eyed white cats, Siamese cats do not have reduced hearing ability.

 

Health

Based on Swedish insurance data, Siamese and Siamese derived breeds have a higher rate of mortality compared to other breeds. The median lifespan of the Siamese was somewhere between 10 to 12.5 years. Survival rate at 12.5 years was 42%. The majority of deaths were caused by neoplasms, mainly mammary tumors. The Siamese also has a higher rate of morbidity. They are at higher risk of neoplastic and gastrointestinal problems but have a lower risk of feline lower urinary tract disease.

It has been shown that the most common variety of PRA -Progressive retinal atrophy in cat (among them the Abyssinian, the Somali and the big group of Siamese related breeds) is related to a mutation on the rdAc-gene and a DNA-test is available.


 

Color Points

Many people believe that the Siamese breed has only one colour point - a Seal Point. However, there are actually approximately 17 variations of Siamese colour points. The traditional colour points are Seal Points (very dark), Chocolate Points (light milk chocolate brown), Blue Points (grayish blue points), and Lilac Points (very dilute colouring almost purple in colouring). Traditional Siamese also have short tights coats. The traditional Siamese colour points have been crossed into other breeds and this has resulted in the recognized varieties seen today. The "long hair" version of traditional Siamese colour points are known as the "Balinese" - they have the same four colour points as the traditional Siamese but long coat and a plumed tail. "Colourpoints" have non-traditional, but recognized colour points. These points include Lynx Points (light gray striped points), Flame or Red Points (orange colour points), Cream Points (a light version of the Red Point) and Torti Points (orange, white and black colour points). The "long hair" versions of Colourpoints are known as "Javanese" (similar to the Balinese, but with non-traditional points of the Colourpoint). The "Oriental" variety is a non-pointed cat with a Siamese body and personality.